Starlight’s 2020 Health Play Specialist of the Year is crowned!

As part of our annual celebration of Play in Hospital Week, the national awareness week focusing on the important role of play and distraction in children’s hospital treatment, Starlight conducted a nationwide search for an outstanding Health Play Specialist of the Year.

This year we were also excited to introduce a brand-new category, Play Team of the Year, to celebrate the incredible teamwork seen on hospital wards across the country.

Health Play Specialist of the Year 2020

So without further ado… Starlight’s third ever Play Specialist of the Year is….

Lisa Beaumont from Leeds Childrens’ Hospital!

Inspired by her own time in hospital as a child, Lisa has dedicated 32 years of her life to helping children in hospitals who are suffering through serious illnesses, by providing play and distraction to support young patients in the medical setting. She was nominated by her colleague Neoma Jacobs because of her dedication over the years, particularly during the pandemic.

“Lisa has fought to take on new play staff and secured some permanent jobs. Without Lisa in her role, the play staff could have been removed from the wards during Covid-19 meaning hundreds of children would have gone without play and support during such a difficult time.”

Lisa spent periods of time in hospital as a child and still remembers the feelings of anxiety as she sat for long periods alone on a bed waiting for or enduring procedures. Those events would later motivate Lisa into a lifetime of working with children, using play combined with passion to make a difference.

From proving the point of play when such a role was still rare three decades ago, to building a dedicated team, pushing boundaries, blagging freebies and literally making children’s dreams come true – Lisa embodies the heart and soul of the Starlight award.

As you can tell, Health Play Specialists like Lisa, truly are some of the many unsung heroes of the NHS, pour their time into ensuring that seriously ill children can still experience the value and joy of play.

I love to make a difference to sick children, you can’t always train that. As well as doing my job I am passionate about making a difference to their life really.

Play Team of the Year

This year, we introduced a new category for the award: Play Team of the Year which was won by none other than Lisa’s own Play Team at Leeds Childrens’ Hospital!

“The whole play team at Leeds have worked throughout Covid to try give the patients and families some normality in a strange and scary time.

Without the play team many patients would have had Swabs with no prep or support, shielding families would have gone without snacks and supplies, patients would have gone through major surgeries without family and friends being able to visit and many families would have missed out on important end of life memory making.

They truly are amazing people who have gone above and beyond their usually job role to provide and care for the patients and their families.”

Starlight Play Specialist of the year is again supported by Ryman who have provided prizes of vouchers, and arts and craft materials to help the winners and runners-up keep their cupboards well stocked. Ryman Chairman Theo Paphitis said:

“Lisa and her team have been recognised by colleagues and award judges for their outstanding work helping children in hospitals. Their nomination and work demonstrates the importance of making time to play in hospital even in the most difficult circumstances. Ryman is proud to support Starlight and this award once again.”

Well done to Lisa and the Play Team at Leeds Children’s Hospital and thank you for the work you do every day!

Congratulations also to our incredible 2020 runners up...

Michelle Crockett- Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

Michelle Crockett- Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

“The entire nursing and medical team are so grateful for Michelle and the magic she works – she makes it look effortless, but the truth is that she works extremely hard every minute of every day.  She is totally dedicated to her job and the families she cares for and goes above and beyond every single day to make their stay in hospital as positive an experience as possible.”

Michelle’s kind nature and dedication to her job completely embodies the theme ‘Playing Well Together’ and despite many fantastic nominations, she had to be our runner up.

Nicola Wright- Peterborough City Hospital

“Play is such a vital part of a child’s life and even more so when they are in hospital. I’m proud to be a part of a fabulous team at Peterborough City Hospital who always go the extra mile to support patients and their families. I have seen first-hand the impact that play can have on a patient and their family, which for me this is the greatest reward.” 

Nicola Wright- Peterborough City Hospital

Play Week’s Little Stars

This year during National Play in Hospital Week we wanted to shine a light on the outstanding bravery and resilience shown by children in hospital through our Little Star Stories. The stories from our Little Stars give a glimpse at how incredible the power of play as part of hospital treatment can be. So let’s meet our 2020 stars….



When sporty Vienna broke her elbow, resulting in a below elbow amputation, her life was turned upside down. Despite the fact she is in and out of hospital, and the huge psychological and physical mountain ahead of her, her Play Team are there with arts and crafts to distract from the pain, giving her the opportunity to work through her emotions with someone not connected to the trauma.

Bolstered by the support of her Play Team and determined not to let her injury get the better of her, Vienna has been working on creating art to decorate her room and is already looking into the 2028 Olympics.


Diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia, and CVA stroke, thirteen-year-old Celestine is non-mobile and uses a wheelchair. At the start of Celestine’s treatment, it would take over two hours to prepare because she was so scared. However her Health Play Specialist began using a series of distraction techniques to help Celestine’s anxiety. These included playing on an iPad, listening to music, relaxing breathing techniques, and even just a good chat.

With the unwavering support of her family, and Play Specialist Michelle, they reached an incredible stage where Celestine only needed about 10-20 mins to prepare for treatment!



Three-year-old Wren, who was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, has always enjoyed playing and through all her hospital visits and home treatments it has been a huge distraction for her. Even when she has been very poorly, she has always taken comfort from the playrooms. Health Play Specialists have been an essential part of making her time in hospital more bearable.

Through small world play and role play Wren’s parents and her Health Play Specialist Dianne have all worked with Wren to reduce her fears. Dressing up in her nurses costume and using her doctor’s set has allowed Wren to act out treatments and procedures on family and her toys, and through play Wren has overcome each of these hurdles.


Finally, we have five-year-old Lillian New. Lillian had an incredible journey guided by her Health Play Specialist, from refusing to get out the car at the hospital to happily coming in and having observations done.

Lillian particularly found wearing her anaesthetic mask challenging and distressing throughout treatment. However, after her ‘Pets as Therapy’ dog, Leo, wore one, she soon followed suit and overcame her fears!


Addenbrooke’s Hospital kick off the virtual Play Week celebrations

Every year the National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) kick of Play in Hospital week with a bang at their launch event taking place in a different hospital each year. In previous years we’ve seen dancing superheroes, real life princesses visiting the wards, hospital canteens turned into circuses and much much more!

This year’s launch hospital, Addenbrooke’s, however have had to do things a little differently. They’ve called upon their friends including Starlight, the Giggle Doctors, Pets as Therapy and Read for Good to name but a few to send their virtual wishes to the patients at Addenbrookes.

They wanted to share the virtual festivities with you all to enjoy in hospitals around the country so make sure to check out our Instagram story for all the action!